Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rio Salado Awarded for Outstanding Use of Technology in Higher Education

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

Rio Salado College is trying to eliminate cheating in higher education. And for its efforts the Tempe-based college was named one of four colleges throughout the country to win a 2010 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award from the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) in Boulder, CO.

In November, college representatives accepted the award for the colleges Peer-to Peer Plagiarism Detection System during a conference in La Jolla, CA.

“At Rio Salado we promote the values of academic integrity among students, faculty, teachers and administrators,” said Vernon Smith, the vice president of Academic Affairs at Rio Salado College. “One of the ways we maintain this integrity is through our Peer-to-Peer Plagiarism detection system.”

The automated plagiarism detector is intended to identify cases of students sharing answers on written assessments. The detection software continuously scans submissions from the college’s Rio Learn interface, and compares them to a 90-day history of submissions for the same assessment. The system detects “excessive similarity” by comparing the question-by-question response patterns of students. Faculty chairs are alerted via e-mail whenever a new case is discovered. The system is extremely robust and commonly detects cases of cheating despite student efforts to conceal it. The detector was initially launched in July and several cases are detected and reviewed each week.

Faculty and staff response to the plagiarism detector has been extremely positive. John Jensen, Rio Salado Faculty president, praised the new system.

“The peer-to-peer plagiarism detection system is a key element in fortifying Rio Salado’s commitment to academic integrity,” said Jensen. “What is more, it reinforces in students the formation of ethical behavior and self-reliance as critical values in their character development and their learning as a personal responsibility. In the end, we feel that this system supports authentication in the online learning environment that meets or exceeds the capabilities of the physical classroom.”

WCET recognizes innovative uses of educational technologies in higher education. Since 2004 the WCET WOW award has been presented to higher education institutions and organizations for exceptionally creative, technology-based solutions to a significant problem or need. In 2010, the awards go to four ambitious projects, each addressing a challenging issue with a unique solution.

“This year the selection process included a more explicit review of measurable outcomes to assess the actual impact of each approach to the specific, targeted need,” noted Peg O’Brien, WOW Awards Committee chair and director of extended programs for Dakota State University in South Dakota. “The WCET WOW award represents a great tribute to the work of the winning organizations, and also serves as a meaningful way to disseminate exemplar practices to the higher education community.”

Along with Rio Salado College, Foothill-De Anza Community College District’s College, Kentucky Virtual Campus’s KCTCS Online, and Winona State University also were named The 2010 WOW recipients.